Perfect liftoff: The coming days will definitely be busy
Diary from a space project 24 March, Saturday, L+1
This sent in from ESA's Charlotte Beskow, deputy ATV team head, from Toulouse, yesterday, the day after ATV-3 launch and covers Friday and Saturday - Ed.
D0 -- 23 March: Launch (in the very early hours of the morning!) Solar arrays deployment: done
D+5 --28 March: Docking to the ISS set for late evening 28 March (22:34 UTC, which is 00:34 CEST on 29 March) so this is ~D-4.5
ESA/CNES mission controllers on console in ATV-CC 22 March Credit: CNES
Update from Toulouse and the ATV-CC
23 March -- Early Friday morning
My alarm rings at 03:45... actually, I have been wide awake since 03:00, and I started by immediately checking the voice recorder of CNES. All is green! Quick breakfast before the taxi arrives. Outside it is cold and foggy.
I get to the CNES establishment in Toulouse (CST - Centre spatial de Toulouse - Ed.) at the same time as the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) team shift. Everyone is exited! The final verification of GPS data and first mission plan were done from the expert's hotel lobby last night. All was OK. This morning it seems as if the weather will cooperate.
Engineering Support Team (EST) room at ATV-CC for ATV-3 launch Credit: ESA/C. Beskow
How do we know who is where? Easy: we have a multi-coloured Excel spreadsheet posted at the exit of the room (see photo below)! Each technical/engineering function has a colour and each person has a line!
Mission controllers at ATV-CC were visited last week by young participants in the Mission X programme, designed to encourage youth, 8-12 years of age, across Europe to adopt good fitness habits, a good diet and a healthy lifestyle based on the training that astronauts undergo in preparation for their missions. More information via http://trainlikeanastronaut.org.
ATV-2 lift-off on board Ariane 5 ES v200 - view from ATV-CC
Charlotte Beskow continues to update us on the the progress of ATV. Earlier on Monday, she sent in a detailed review on happenings during the past few days, prior and after the launch. Read more of Charlotte's story below and after the jump.
Sunday, 20 February:the planners have their hands full!
D+4 and D-4
We live our lives as a function of 'D-x'. 'X' minutes before boost, 'Y' minutes before MSU activation, 'Z' minutes before health check, etc. With ATV in orbit, the teams in Toulouse are now working 24/7 monitoring the vehicle and uploading the necessary flight commands in order to get ATV to the correct point in space, in the correct condition, and at the correct time in order to start the rendezvous with the ISS on Thursday. Docking is scheduled at 15:45 (GMT) and each activity that leads to that event is calculated and entered into the mission plan as a function of that time. The planners have their hands full!
Feb 16 - launch day
The weather fates contributed suspense to last week's countdown! Right up to the last 40-50 minutes, I think most of us were mentally preparing for a repeat performance or the previous day's delay. As it turned out, this was not necessary. When Ariane put ATV into orbit right on time and 'spot on' with respect to the intended injection point, everybody drew visible signs of relief as the solar panels deployed correctly. Our colleagues in Toulouse kept us posted about the early operations via SMS messages that arrived at all times. This was very helpful!
We received a nice note yesterday from ESA's Jean-Michel Bois, Mission Director at ATV-CC, explaining details on the work involved with planning and scheduling communications with ATV-2.
Since ATV separated from its Ariane launcher on 16 February, all communications between ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) in Toulouse and the vessel - receipt of telemetry and sending of telecommands - have been achieved via data relay satellites. Two relay satellite systems are in use: NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) and ESA's own Artemis satellite.
During the current 'phasing' period (i.e. manoeuvring so as to match the ATV orbit with that of the ISS), ATV is communicating primarily via NASA's TDRSS. ATV-CC is using Artemis as a back-up and as a complement when TDRSS communication slots are not available.
The TDRSS satellites can ensure communication during ATV's complete orbit (about once every 90 minutes) thanks to the fact that the system comprises multiple satellites. These are set in a ring in permanent geosynchronous orbit with at least one looking down on all regions the Earth (and on ATV as well!).
ESA's single Artemis satellite is also in geo-orbit, located at 21.4ºE, and offers around 40 minutes of continuous contact during each of ATV's orbits. ESA's Redu station, in Belgium, houses the Artemis mission control room (more details here).
At ATV-CC, it's the task of mission planners and the 'Ops Manager' on console to prepare and manage the communication coverage; this team works in very close coordination with their NASA and Redu counterparts.
For your Saturday evening enjoyment! A gem of a video originally published on ATV launch day, which - of course - quickly sank down the newslist. ESA's Adam Williams explains how the ATV-CC team has come together to work as one while getting ready for the launch and - still to come - docking. Definitely worth a second look - or first, if you missed it during launch day excitement. -- DGS
As we watch the clock for today's new launch attempt, due at 22:50 CET tonight, here is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at how the ATV-CC team gets trained - an interview with ESA's Adam Williams. Adam is the specialist who oversees training and simulations for the joint ESA/CNES operations team here, and in today's video he explains the complexities of training mission controllers on ATV's sophisticated systems and how team work emerges when challenges are overcome.
… and some photos from ATV-CC Toulouse
It's silent in Toulouse right now: the calm before a storm of activity! Some of the ATV engineers and controllers are going home for a quick meal and rest before an action-packed night - but some are already now on console!
ATV-CC on 15 February at 18:20 CET
Observation room is already prepared for VIPs
One day before launch: Today is Launch Monday L-1
ATV-2 on board Ariane 5
Today is 'Launch Monday' - noted as 'L-1' in the mission planning documentation - and there are a number of crucial activities that will be taking place at Kourou, French Guiana, and at ATV-CC in Toulouse. Tomorrow: the 200th flight will loft by far the heaviest payload ever launched by Ariane 5 - more than 20 tonnes - into a circular orbit at an altitude of 260 kilometres, inclined at 51.6 degrees.
Today, teams across Arianespace, ESA and CNES will be hard at work getting ready for the start of the countdown clock (due Tuesday, 15 February at 11:43 CET - 11hr30min prior to launch).
(1) At Europe's Spaceport in Kourou:
Ariane 5 ES flight v200 with ATV Kepler on board - Roll-out from the vertical integration building (BAF) to Launch Area (ZL); both are located at the ELA3 launch site
At the Launch Area, ground teams will establish data and power connections to Ariane and ATV, and begin filling the main cryogenic stage (called the EPC - Etage Principal Cryotechnique) with liquid Helium (more info here)
(2) And at ATV-CC Toulouse:
ATV Johannes Kepler final flight dynamics calculations were completed yesterday (13 Feb) and will be stored on board today. The exact launch time (23:13:27 CET - Toulouse local time) according to the updated trajectory data from the ISS has been provided to Arianespace. (We've also updated the countdown clock in the blog - Ed.)
Additional data sets will be uploaded to ATV's computers, including GPS files the final pre-flight Onboard Mission Plan (OMP) - the detailed commands that tell ATV what do to and when to do it.
Insider view: briefing on ATV-CC control facilities with Kris Capelle
Today's video report features ESA's lead Mission Director Kris Capelle taking us on a personal guided tour of the control rooms at ATV Control Centre, located at the CNES establishment in Toulouse, France. Kris does a great job of explaining in plain language who does what, how the team is organised and how mission operations function. There are also great clips of the ESA and CNES mission operations personnel working in the rooms during recent simulations.
ATV media briefing – presentation files and mp3 audio
Approximately 15 media from Germany and Belgium were present, and the Q&A session - with Mission Director Capelle, Head Engineer Leiseifer and astronauts De Winne and Gerst - was quite lively. Listen to the audio recording below and click on 'continue reading' to access the PPTs.
Times in UTC
6/05 - ATV-4 moves to the BAF for final preparations
8/05 - ESA Operations Readiness Review
20/05 - Late-cargo loading
31/05 - Launch Readiness Review (planned)
5/06 Lift-off VA213 (planned) All dates subject to change